Setting Standards in Science from Year 1 to Year 6 – The Spinner Experiment.

This is fascinating – the same writing task given to every child in 5 primary schools and their work judged using comparative judgement.

Paradigm Trust is using comparative judgement as part of it’s assessment for writing in English, science, and foundation subjects. We’ve just analysed the science writing.

The children all experienced dropping spinners with different length wings. Their teacher demonstrated how to measure how long different spinners took and then were asked to write up the experiment. We got 1200 scripts.

We used CJ to judge each script and award a score. By setting a score as the minimum standard for expected and greater depth, we were able to identify these scripts for each year group:

science exemplars

It’s worth a good look.


My Bar Model Talk at Rugby ResearchEd


I came back buzzing from ResearchEd Rugby – thank you to everyone I spoke with and all the presenters.

I wanted to write a quick summary of my talk, but Ian @teachingofscience has done it better:

Here are my slides.

Here is a booklet on the bar-model in science.

If you would like to contribute data to my small scale research, these are my algrbra/bar-model lessons:

PVPA non-bar-model electricity lesson

PVPA bar-model electricity lesson

and the follow up test:

Follow-up-test Ben_s Research Lesson_ the algebra way to teach Kirchoff_s 1st Law

Thanks again,


Better than a definition….

Orbit - examples and non-examples
Orbit – examples and non-examples

A definition is a terrible thing for teaching what a word means.

Orbit: the path followed by a moon, planet or artificial satellite as it travels around another body in space (NASA).

This definition is only useful once you are already pretty secure in your understanding of the word.

To develop a subtle and nuanced understanding of a word such as orbit, exposure to examples, especially the less common examples, such as the Mars Global Surveyor orbiting Mars, and to non-examples, where learners are told, “this may look like an orbit (something going round something else), but it isn’t an example.

I developed the resource on the left from Theory of Instruction: Principles and Applications by Siegfried Engelmann and Douglas Carnine (Chapter 4).

I use the images, typically one at a time on a presentation slide, explaining why it is or isn’t an example. You can rattle through this quite quickly. Follow it up with a Hockman ‘but, because, so‘ 

  • A moon orbits a planet, but…
  • A moon orbits a planet because…
  • A moon orbits a planet so…

or you could use elaboration with a similar/different task (here).

My next post is on Freyer Models to take the definition/example/non-example further.

And…. my book is coming out this week!


Using Elaboration in Science Lessons

In my book (due out this month!) I have adapted some of the Learning Scientist strategies for physics classrooms. In this blog, I am sharing a technique I like to use in my classes – similar/different.

Science SimilarDifferent (the Universe) (1)

Learners complete as many of the text boxes as they can, showing the similarities and differences between the two objects/concepts. Cognitive psychologists call this elaboration.

Elaboration works by highlighting the similarities and differences between concepts (I first used it for Hadrian’s Wall and Trump’s Wall). In physics, elaboration helps learners develop their knowledge by adding subtle details.

I do this by providing my learners with a sheet to complete. If I do this at the start of the lesson, I am also making use of retrieval practice and interleaving (great podcasts here). If I do it at the end of the lesson (as a check out), I am typically using it more as assessment.

I often make use of “solo, pair, share” – my students complete their sheet solo for two minutes, then pair-up with a neighbour for one minute – this gives me three minutes to check everyone and identify the answers I want shared (I usually put a dot beside the sentences I want read out). Sharing takes a further couple of minutes.

Science SimilarDifferent (the Universe)

I generally have a completed version of my own to show in case I don’t get everything I want. This link shows examples for teaching the Universe: pdf file of similar/different examples for the Universe.

I hope this is useful.


My book for new physics teachers…

The Big Ideas in Physics_Twitter (1)

My book is due to be published next month!

The publishers (Taylor&Francis) have asked me to prepare the text for a publicity poster. I’m please with the wording, so I thought I’d share. Tom Eden from T&F has done a great job with the graphics, so I’m looking forward to seeing what he does with this.

Big Ideas in Physics Poster - for teachers


The Big Ideas in Physics_2 (1)


Why Bar-Model Works #2: Reducing Cognitive Load

In my previous post (here) I tried to explain how bar-model supports learning using dual-coding. In this post, I want to use Cognitive Load Theory to explain that bar-models  reduce cognitive load. (I should point out that as of now, I have no research evidence to show that using bar-model leads to improved long-term learning and improved problem solving – but I’m working on it).

CLT bar model (2)

This diagram represents the three elements of cognitive load (I’m referring to the book Efficiency in Learning, Clark, Nguyen and Sweller – 2006).

Continue reading “Why Bar-Model Works #2: Reducing Cognitive Load”

Using Visual Representations to Help Solve Abstract Physics Problems

By year 6, pupils are skilled mathematical problem solvers. They can solve multi-step questions involving abstract concepts. This sounds like GCSE physics. Many year 6 pupils are taught to use visual representations to facilitate their problem solving. I wondered whether this would work in physics. I think it does.

I have put together a booklet containing problems and model answers using the Singapore Maths visualisation method: the bar-model. My goal is to carry out research to demonstrate whether bar-model in physics facilitates long-term learning.

In the meantime – I thought I would share the booklet to get feedback. The link is below. If you use it, please give me feedback.



Using Visual Representations to Help Solve Abstract Physics Problems – Ben Rogers(3)

With thanks to Jonathan Wragg, Lyndsay Sawyer, Ryan Doney and Anand Chauhan of Paradigm Trust for their knowledge, support and enthusiasm for this project (and @ollie_lovell for spotting embarrassing mistake!)

Using bar-model to represent current visually
Using bar-model to represent current visually

But where is the cognitive science and the knowledge?

I’ve just received an email from TES advertising a book they are publishing titled: tes guide to STEM.I was hoping to see a summary of the best evidence based STEM practice. I haven’t read the book, so I might be 100% wrong here but the choice of topics covered strike me as odd – maybe old fashioned.

Screenshot 2018-03-03 at 09.56.43
email advert from TES advertising Tes Guide to STEM

Continue reading “But where is the cognitive science and the knowledge?”

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